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9 Resilient Athletes Who Brave Mental Health Struggles

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Written by Orlando Treatment Solutions, September 7, 2023

9 Resilient Athletes Who Brave Mental Health Struggles

In sports, athletes often appear as invincible figures, celebrated for their extraordinary physical talents and remarkable achievements. Yet, it’s important to remember that beneath the surface, they grapple with the same mental health challenges that affect us all. In recent years, many athletes have shared their battles with mental health issues, highlighting a critical aspect of their lives that has too often been overlooked. In this blog post, we will delve into the stories of 9 remarkable athletes who have courageously spoken about their mental health struggles, breaking down barriers and advocating for a more empathetic and supportive approach to mental wellness in sports.

Mentally Depressed Athlete

What does the stats say?

There are over half a million collegiate student-athletes in the NCAA, attending numerous colleges and universities across various athletic conferences. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 8.4% of adults aged 18 or older experienced depression, and 19.1% had anxiety disorders in the past year.

Among college-age students (18-25), the prevalence of depression stands at 17.0%, and for anxiety disorders, it’s 22.3%. College is considered a high-risk period for the development of mental health issues, with over 30% of students showing significant signs of depression, according to the American College Health Association.

College student-athletes, a subset of young adults, may face additional stressors linked to mental health problems, such as disordered eating and substance abuse. Given the growing awareness of mental health, there’s a need for updated research on the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem among this specific population.

Meet 9 Resilient Athletes Who Defy Mental Health Challenges

1. Simone Biles – Gymnastics

Simone Biles, often called the greatest gymnast of all time, made headlines during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when she withdrew from several events, citing a need to prioritize her mental well-being. Her decision sparked an international conversation about the importance of mental health in sports. Biles’ vulnerability and dedication to her mental health symbolized strength, resonating with countless individuals who have faced similar challenges.

2. Michael Phelps – Swimming

With his staggering 23 Olympic gold medals, Michael Phelps stands as an undisputed swimming legend. Yet, beneath his impressive achievements lay a hidden battle with depression and anxiety. Phelps has since transformed into a powerful advocate for mental health awareness. He founded the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes mental health initiatives and supports individuals struggling with mental well-being.

3. Naomi Osaka – Tennis

Naomi Osaka, a dominant force in women’s tennis, made headlines in 2021 when she withdrew from the French Open, citing the need to protect her mental health. Her decision was a brave assertion of her rights as an athlete to prioritize her well-being. It ignited conversations about the pressures and expectations placed on athletes both on and off the court, emphasizing the importance of mental health care and self-care in sports.

4. Kevin Love – Basketball

NBA star Kevin Love has been refreshingly open about his experiences with anxiety and panic attacks. His candidness has helped remove the stigma around mental health in professional sports. Love co-authored a widely-read essay in The Players’ Tribune, emphasizing the need for better mental health support and resources for athletes.

5. Ronda Rousey – Mixed Martial Arts

Ronda Rousey, a trailblazer in women’s mixed martial arts, faced a challenging period of depression following a devastating loss in her career. Her story is a powerful reminder that even the most resilient and fierce athletes face mental health struggles. Rousey’s openness has encouraged others to seek help and embrace their own vulnerabilities.

6. Brandon Marshall – Football

Former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall is passionate about mental health awareness. He founded the Brandon Marshall Foundation, dedicated to mental health education and support for individuals and families affected by mental health issues. Marshall’s journey from struggling with mental health to becoming a voice for change exemplifies the transformative power of vulnerability and advocacy.

7. Allison Schmitt – Swimming

Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt faced depression following her success at the 2012 London Olympics. She has since used her platform to raise awareness about mental health issues in athletes. Schmitt’s resilience and willingness to discuss her mental health struggles have inspired many to seek help and find the support they need.

8. DeMar DeRozan – Basketball

NBA player DeMar DeRozan has been outspoken about his battles with depression and anxiety. His openness has not only raised awareness about mental health in the sports world. Still, it has also encouraged others to prioritize their mental well-being and seek assistance when facing similar challenges. DeRozan’s advocacy has been instrumental in fostering a more compassionate and supportive environment for athletes.

9. Clara Hughes – Cycling and Speed Skating

Clara Hughes is a remarkable athlete who has competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Despite her impressive career, she has faced her struggles with depression. Hughes is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness in sports. She embarked on a cross-country bike ride to raise awareness and funds for mental health initiatives in Canada. She used her journey as a powerful metaphor for many’s uphill battles in managing their mental health.


The stories of these nine athletes remind us that mental health challenges do not discriminate, affecting individuals regardless of their achievements or fame. By sharing their experiences and seeking help, they have inspired others to do the same and shattered the stigma surrounding mental health in the world of sports. These athletes exemplify the strength that comes from vulnerability and the importance of prioritizing mental well-being. Their stories serve as a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a call to create a more supportive and empathetic environment for athletes everywhere.

Are you an Athlete Struggling with Mental Health? You’re not alone.

Many athletes experience mental health challenges, but they often feel like they can’t talk about it. The pressure to perform, the fear of judgment, and the stigma surrounding mental illness can all make it difficult for athletes to get help.

But there is hope!

If you are an athlete struggling with mental health, please know that you are not alone. Some people can help. Contact Orlando Treatment Solutions today to learn about our advanced solutions for mental health and drug and alcohol abuse. We are not your average drug and alcohol rehab. Our treatment center is focused on real solutions that provide real results for young adults and adults alike.

If you are an athlete struggling with mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care. Our team of experienced professionals will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your individual needs.

Don’t wait any longer. Contact Orlando Treatment Solutions today and start your journey to recovery.

Call us today (321) 415-3213.

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